Ketanji Brown Jackson has been confirmed as the first black woman to serve on the supreme court of the United States.
The 51-year-old federal appellate judge was appointed on Thursday to the lifetime post on the US’s top court following a 53- 47 vote in the Senate.
Three Republicans – Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah – backed her confirmation along with all Democrats.
The confirmation represented a victory for US president Joe Biden who had made a promise while campaigning for the White House to appoint a black woman to the supreme court.
The appointment of Ms Jackson will not change the complexion of the court which has a solid conservative majority. She will replace 83-year-old Stephen Breyer who was one of the liberal bloc on the court.
Mr Breyer is due to serve until the court’s current term ends – usually in late June – and Ms Jackson will be formally sworn in after that.
Democrat Raphael Warnock, one of the Senate’s three black members, said in debate before the vote: “I’m the father of a young black girl. I know how much it means for Judge Jackson to have navigated the double jeopardy of racism and sexism to now stand in the glory of this moment. . . Seeing Judge Jackson ascend to the supreme court reflects the promise of progress on which our democracy rests. What a great day it is in America.”
During the confirmation hearing, a number of Republicans in the Senate strongly criticised Ms Jackson over her sentencing policy and maintained that she would be an “activist” judge and soft on crime.
Ms Jackson promised she would be an independent justice.
Kamala Harris, the first black woman to serve as US vice-president, presided over the Senate vote as Ms Jackson was confirmed to serve on the supreme court. Ms Harris called for the final vote on Ms Jackson’s nomination with a smile on her face, and the chamber broke into loud applause when the appointment was confirmed.
“Today, we are taking a giant, bold and important step on the well-trodden path to fulfilling our country’s founding promises,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said just before the final vote. “This is a great moment for Judge Jackson. But it is an even greater moment for America as we rise to a more perfect union.”
However, ahead of the vote, Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell urged Ms Jackson to embrace the textualist approach to the constitution of conservative justices.
“The soon-to-be justice can either satisfy her radical fan club or help preserve the judiciary that Americans need, but not both. I’m afraid the nominee’s record tells us which is likely, but I hope Judge Jackson proves me wrong.”